Power-Ranking Big Ten Starting Small Forwards

Ryan CuriFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2013

Power-Ranking Big Ten Starting Small Forwards

0 of 12

    The small forward list had a little bit of everything—three-point shooters, slashers, defensive stoppers and even back-to-the-basket players. While this complicated the rankings, it was easy to determine the three classes of players in this list—the top two shooting forwards, third- through eighth-ranked three-forwards and the bottom-four small forwards.

    Here is a recap of the 12 starting small forwards in the Big Ten this past season, ranked solely on this season's performances.

    This is the third of five lists analyzing Big Ten starters. We've reached the midpoint of these rankings so feel free to share your insight.

12) Brandon Taylor

1 of 12

    As a true freshman, Brandon Taylor (5.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 20.2 minutes) probably didn't expect to start in 18 of 31 games.

    Taylor became a starter Nov. 23 after just four games and retained his starting role through Feb. 9 before giving way to Nick Colella in a smaller lineup to finish the year.

    Taylor could very well be relegated back to the bench next year as Tim Frazier returns from an achilles injury that kept him out nearly the entire season. Taylor scored in double figures on six occasions this season, though none came after an 11-point performance against Purdue on Jan. 13.

11) Sam Thompson

2 of 12

    If you're looking for a jaw-dropping dunk, simply insert Sam Thompson's name into a YouTube search and you're bound to find entertainment.

    The 6'7" 190-pound Thompson (7.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 25.1 minutes) is a slashing, high-flying athlete that increased his role dramatically from his freshman year.

    Thompson's career-high 20-point effort helped lead the Buckeyes past Iona in the second round of the NCAA tournament and added 11 points while playing 38 minutes against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen.

    Though Thompson and fellow sophomore LaQuinton Ross shared minutes at small forward this past year, expect to see the two beside each other as Ross is the likeliest candidate to replace Deshaun Thomas at power forward.

10) Shavon Shields

3 of 12

    If you're looking for a potential breakout player in the upcoming season, Shavon Shields (8.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 28.7 minutes) may be your guy.

    Not only did Nebraska lose scoring threats Brandon Ubel and Dylan Talley, but Shields played his best basketball once he became a starter on Jan. 6 against Wisconsin.

    Shields scored 29 points on 10-of-11 shooting at Penn State on Jan. 19, but followed that up with a two-point, five-foul performance against Illinois. In the Cornhuskers' two Big Ten tournament games, Shields averaged 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds on 61 percent shooting in 36.5 minutes of playing time.

9) Mike Bruesewitz

4 of 12

    Mike Bruesewitz's season senior numbers of 6.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 28.0 minutes were nearly identical to those during his junior season, despite his haircut changing multiple times during that span.

    While not being known as a big time scoring threat, Bruesewitz does the dirty work by rebounding, defending and diving on the floor for loose balls.

    Like fellow seniors Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans, Bruesewitz's career didn't end the way he wanted. The 6'6" forward from Saint Paul, Minn., shot only 1-of-4, while committing four turnovers in 32 minutes. Bruesewitz defended Marshall Henderson well for roughly 30 minutes before Henderson got hot to lead Ole Miss to victory.

8) DJ Byrd

5 of 12

    DJ Byrd (10.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 30.8 minutes) came into his senior season as the most experienced Boilermaker on the roster, but much like Purdue's season, Byrd had an up-and-down year.

    Byrd went through a three-game stretch of just four points on 0-of-14 three-point shooting in early December. 

    However, from Jan. 13-27, Byrd scored in double figures five straight times while connecting on 16 3-pointers. Byrd's 15 points and eight rebounds weren't enough for the seventh-seeded Boilermakers to beat Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament, leaving them under .500 and ineligible for the NIT which prompted their CBI acceptance where they lost in the second round to Santa Clara.

7) Nik Stauskas

6 of 12

    Despite being only the third most heralded player in the 2012 freshman class for Michigan, Nik Stauskas (11.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 30.5 minutes) had the most consistent season between himself, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.

    He won the starting job from Matt Vogrich on Dec. 1 against Bradley and ran with it.

    Stauskas scored in double figures 29 times while shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc. He was a perfect 6-of-6 from deep against Florida on his way to 22 points, helping the Wolverines advance to the Final Four.

    Stauskas' role on the next year's Michigan squad will rest upon which players come back to school and which ones leave for the NBA. Either way, Stauskas will be a force in the Big 10 for three more seasons.

6) Austin Hollins

7 of 12

    As a scorer, Austin Hollins found a streaky method to average double figures in scoring as a junior.

    Despite his inconsistency, Hollins (10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 29.8 minutes) could always be counted on as the Golden Gophers' top perimeter defender and an above-average rebounder and passer for his position.

    Hollins is the son of Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins and with a big senior season, could himself be in the NBA too one day.

    Austin and Andre Hollins (unrelated) will no doubt be the team's top two players under new head coach Richard Pitino.

    Minnesota has underachieved with their talent of late, but a big year from Hollins could help the Gophers overachieve and surprise in 2013-14.

5) Branden Dawson

8 of 12

    The fact that Branden Dawson (8.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 26.9 minutes) recovered from a torn ACL in the regular season finale against Ohio State last March and was ready for this season's November opener in Germany is a testament to Dawson's ability.

    Dawson is a stud athlete, who hauled in 2.1 offensive rebounds per game.

    If Dawson could develop a mid-range jumper over this summer, his junior season jump could be quite similar to that of Adreian Payne this past year.

    Dawson scored in double figures 16 times, though none came in MSU's final 11 contests, including a mere 12 points in the Spartans' three NCAA tournament games.

4) Aaron White

9 of 12

    While statistically it may not look like Aaron White (12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 29.2 minutes) improved significantly as a sophomore, his larger role helped the Hawkeyes win seven more games than they did in 2011-12 as they advanced to the NIT championship game at Madison Square Garden.

    White went from a player who strictly dunked and shot three-pointers, to a slasher that attempted nearly seven free throw tosses per contest. White scored 10-plus points in 27 of 38 games and returns to a tall, talented and experienced Iowa team bound to make the NCAA tournament in 2013-14.

3) Reggie Hearn

10 of 12

    Reggie Hearn (13.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 33.0 minutes) may not be as talented as White, Dawson, or Hollins, but he played with heart and was the Wildcat's top player last season.

    A former walk-on, Hearn scored double figures in all but seven games, including two double-double efforts.

    The first of those came at Baylor where Hearn scored 17 points and pulled in 10 rebounds at a time where the 'Cats were still healthy with Drew Crawford and Jared Swopshire available.

    The workload became too heavy for Hearn and the undermanned Wildcats to handle in the deep Big Ten however. Hearn ended his career with a 19-point, 10-rebound effort in a Big Ten tournament loss to Iowa. That also marked Bill Carmody's last game as Northwestern head coach.

2) Brandon Paul

11 of 12

    After scoring 43 points against Ohio State as a junior, Brandon Paul (16.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 32.0 minutes) may have had even more impressive performances during his last season in Champaign, Ill.

    Paul was the the Maui tournament MVP, averaging 21.0 points in the team's four games on the island. He scored 35 points in an 11-point road victory at Gonzaga, hit a buzzer-beating jumper to beat Minnesota at the Big Ten Tournament to clinch the Illini's berth in the NCAA tournament and finished his career with 18 points in a near-upset over second-seeded Miami.

    Paul scored in double figures in 33 of 36 games and should be seriously considered as a second-round NBA selection.

1) Victor Oladipo

12 of 12

    Victor Oladipo (13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 28.4 minutes) finished his junior season and collegiate career as one of the top players in the nation at Indiana.

    Oladipo scored in double digits 30 times and was the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year as a future lottery pick this upcoming June.

    Oladipo's outside shooting was his biggest improvement, as he jumped from 20.8 percent from deep as a sophomore to a 44.1 percent clip from behind the arc as a junior. On the season, he shot 59.9 percent as a slasher and improved perimeter player.

    Oladipo plays great around the rim, finishing athletic dunks and averaging 2.6 offensive rebounds per night. There are so many positive things to say about Oladipo's game that we'd quickly run out of space here, so I think you get the point.